Documentation and education
The documentation of threats to wildlife is the first step in any effective conservation programme. Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book is an attempt to fulfil that requirement for the swallowtails. It was the first worldwide assessment of the conservation needs of any invertebrate group and the first Red Data Book (RDB) to be based upon a published consideration of every species in the taxon under review, in this case the family Papilionidae.
A number of national RDBs and official or unofficial lists have documented the threats to local Papilionidae. The majority of these are for European countries and consider only the very limited swallowtail fauna of that region. Although the Papilionidae is one of the best-known of all insect groups, documentation of the conservation and biology of rare swallowtails is relatively sparse because of their mainly tropical distribution.
The lUCN Invertebrate Red Data Book included seven species of swallowtails and a number of other butterflies, but drew attention to the fact that destruction of habitat is putting whole invertebrate communities at risk. The category Threatened Community, coined in the Invertebrate RDB, has not been utilized here because it was considered inappropriate and artificial to describe communities based on a single family of butterflies. Nevertheless, the principal remains valid since swallowtails comprise a small, but significant and often highly visible, part of innumerable Threatened Communities worldwide. The most severe threat is destruction of entire biotopes and habitats, which destroys plants and animals indiscriminately. Many swallowtails still remain very poorly known.
The protection of swallowtail butterflies in wild and natural areas designated as national parks and reserves is a vital priority. Two main needs have become evident.
Firstly, very few existing protected areas have been surveyed for any invertebrate groups. The swallowtails and other butterflies provide an opportunity for extending the traditional species lists of birds and mammals to include a spectacular and popular insect group that is of interest to an increasing number of tourists and visitors to protected areas. Once the local species are known, fine opportunities exist for tropical countries to emulate the success of the British butterfly houses in more natural surroundings. Habitat enrichment to attract butterflies after the fashion of the Papua New Guinea ranching programme (see below) could do much to conserve swallowtails at the same time as interpreting the value of swallowtails to the general public in a pleasantly assimilable fashion.
Secondly, there are certain countries that have important swallowtail faunas but very limited allowances for protected areas. Just five countries, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Brazil and Madagascar, between them contain over half of the world’s species of swallowtails . A further five countries, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, brings the total to more than two thirds. All of these countries, and many others, could use their swallowtail faunas as an extra yardstick in judging the value of existing or proposed protected areas.
Certain of the world’s tropical forest areas are known to be under particularly severe threat of total deforestation, many of them with valuable endemic swallowtails already listed above. An exhaustive account cannot be given here, but a few illustrative examples may be cited. Because of economic and population pressures most of the Philippines’ lowland forests may be gone by the end of the century. The national parks system is said to be undergoing review, but there is evidence of wholesale abuse of reserve boundaries by logging companies and agriculturalists (e.g. see review of Graphium sandawanum) . Similarly, the population profile and extent of logging in Indonesia indicate that the loss of huge areas of forest cover is also now inevitable. In recognition of the need for conservation planning as part of their development programme, the Indonesian government has prepared a thorough conservation plan. Malaysia is also drafting a state by state conservation strategy that should rationalise the parks system throughout that country, but there is a need for haste as the rate of logging in eastern Malaysia is growing rapidly, threatening to cause deforestation on the scale seen in Peninsular Malaysia before long.
Other priority areas for the protection of swallowtails in reserves include western China, the southern foothills of the Himalayas, the western forests of India and the forests of Sri Lanka. In the Caribbean, Jamaica’s system of reserves is in need of revision and there is opportunity for more effective measures in the Dominican Republic and possibly Cuba. Brazil’s rain forests are still extensive despite increasing settlement in Para, Mato Grosso and Rondonia, but the Atlantic seaboard forests are poorly protected and include many highly endangered species. In Africa there is increasing attention being paid to the protection of the relict montane forests, and in the unique biotopes of Madagascar more has been done to strengthen the national park system in recent years.
The Tropical Rain Forest and Primates Campaign, launched by the World Wildlife Fund in 1982, promoted conservation measures in 14 countries. Many of the projects focussed on the need to protect forested areas not only as a genetic resource for the future , but also as a valuable tool in watershed and soil protection. World Wildlife Fund’s Plants Campaign, launched in 1984, emphasized the value of protected forests as a source of plants useful to mankind as crops and medicines.
Where natural forests are already severely depleted, the value of plantation forestry as a conservation tool should not be underestimated. Plantations can provide timber for fuel, decoration and building, thus alleviating the pressures on the natural woodlands and forests that remain. They can also serve as buffer zones around natural forest refuges, as has been proposed for the Nyungwe forest in Rwanda (see review of Papilio leucotaenia). However, the aims of resource conservation are largely defeated when natural forest areas are cleared to make way for plantations. In practically every part of the tropics there are adequate areas of already cleared and partially degraded land that could be focal points for afforestation and regeneration. International co-operation is needed in a global programme of conservation-orientated investment in plantation forestry.
Legislation and international conventions
International agreement on wildlife trade control is contained in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which controls and monitors import and export of listed species. A total of 87 countries have so far become party to CITES, and the European Community has adopted a Regulation (3626/82) to enforce the Convention uniformly throughout the Community.
Appendix I is a list of species in which trade is subject to strict regulation and commercial trade is virtually prohibited. This includes Ornithoptera alexandrae, Papilio chikae and Papilio homerus.
Appendix II lists species in which trade is regulated for the purpose of monitoring. The butterflies listed on Appendix II are all the birdwings (Ornithoptera, Troides and Trogonoptera) (except O. alexandrae which is Appendix 1), Atrophaneura jophon, A. pandiyana, all Bhutanitis species, Papilio hospiton, all Teinopalpus species and the Apollo butterfly, Parnassius apollo, all in the Papilionidae. These species may be commercially traded, but an export permit from the country of export is required before specimens may be removed from that country or imported into another state which is party to CITES.
Many other threatened butterflies are traded quite heavily and ideally could be monitored. However, it must be recognized that there are serious problems in the implementation of controls on insects that are difficult to identify (compared with many vertebrates) and very easily transportable.
The European Community Regulation 3626/82 implementing CITES includes an Annex of species listed on Appendix II of CITES that the Community treats as though they were on Appendix I, i.e. preventing virtually all trade in those species. The EC unexpectedly added the CITES Appendix II Papilionidae to this list, a move that was carried out without consultation with the CITES Secretariat or the lUCN/SSC Butterfly Specialist Group. The Regulation may severely jeopardize the Papua New Guinea birdwing ranching programme and may cause the demise of proposed ranching programmes in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, all of which rely heavily on European markets. Butterfly ranching is seen as an important tool for conservation. International efforts have been made to have the Papilionidae removed from Annex C Part I in order to bring the EC Regulation more into line with the requirements of CITES. Other sources should be researched for the most recent details.
National legislation to protect local swallowtails is now quite commonplace. General restrictions on trade in Lepidoptera apply in Germany, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico and Turkey. One or more species of swallowtail are protected or banned in trade under national legislation in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Russia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the U.S.A.
In recognition of the importance of conserving the habitats of threatened animals and plants, all northern European countries give greater emphasis to protected areas than to legislation concerning individual species. No amount of protective legislation will succeed if a species’ habitat is permitted to be destroyed. Nevertheless, legislation and international conventions do have the added advantage of drawing public attention to the plight of particularly rare or threatened species. The U.S. Endangered Species Act is probably one of the most effective forms of wildlife protection in the world, but is not without its problems. Taxa listed are required to be thoroughly studied and a recovery plan drawn up. If so recommended, the Act allows for designation of complete protection for habitats critical to the survival of threatened taxa, as well as for protection of the taxa themselves. An example of the working of the Act is Schaus’ Swallowtail, a case-history which also demonstrates that problems still exist in the practical application of the Act.
Management and research
Research on the management of threatened insects began in Great Britain, where it has been the responsibility of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. The centres at Furzebrook and Monks Wood have been particularly active in management and conservation of rare insects, one of which, the British Swallowtail (Papilio machaon britannicus), has been the subject of long-term research and is now one of the world’s best-known papilionid taxa.
Papilio machaon is a very widespread Holarctic species that in Britain has become specialized on a single foodplant found only in the fens (marshes) of East Anglia, Milk Parsley (Peucedanum palustre). At one time the Swallowtail occurred throughout the East Anglian fens and possibly in marshes along the River Thames and River Lea, but extensive drainage in the early 19th century destroyed most suitable habitat. The butterfly survived at Wicken Fen until the early 1950s when that population became extinct, leaving the species confined to marshes around the Norfolk Broads, notably Hickling Broad. In 1975, 228 artificially reared adults were released at Wicken Fen in an attempt at reintroduction and it was estimated that over 2000 individuals pupated that year, but by 1980 the population was once again extinct. The failure was attributed to a gradual lowering of water levels in Wicken Fen, which had a deleterious impact on the foodplants.
In the U.S.A. Schaus’ Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus) is confined to the Florida Keys and listed under the Endangered Species Act. Schaus’ Swallowtail has been the subject of intensive biological research but despite these efforts the species is still declining, mainly as a result of habitat destruction.
These attempts at swallowtail management have perhaps not met with the success that was hoped for, but important lessons have been learnt. It has been recognized that recovery programmes are expensive on resources and may be very risky. Long-term planning and adequate provision for protected areas are undoubtedly preferable. Nevertheless, as the threats to swallowtails and other butterflies become more intense, there will be a growing need for careful management studies, particularly in tropical regions. Research on the birdwing butterflies has demonstrated that an intimate knowledge of breeding biology and general ecology can pay dividends in terms of both conservation and rational exploitation. Further carefully directed research could be of great benefit to the conservation of the family as a whole.
In 1984 the Lepidoptera Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of lUCN was divided into a Butterfly Specialist Group and a Moth Specialist Group. The Butterfly Group inherited certain long-standing priorities such as the conservation of the Monarch Butterfly over-wintering grounds in Mexico and the protection of Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing in Papua New Guinea. With their worldwide connections the Specialist Groups are of great value in centralizing conservation data and in advising on priorities for conservation attention. Attracting funds for conservation projects is more difficult for invertebrates than vertebrates, but the recommendations of the Group should be recognized as being of international priority and importance.
Ranching and farming of swallowtails
The term ‘farming’ in this context means that young are reared in captivity from parents that are also held in captivity. ‘Ranched’ swallowtails are captured as young stages of wild parentage and reared to the adult stage in captivity. Farming of swallowtails on a large scale is relatively rare but perfectly possible, particularly since the technique of hand-mating has been perfected for Papilio. As noted above, the hybrids used in the study of the genetics of mimicry were farmed, as were the British Swallowtails that were released at Wicken Fen. Farming has also been used as a conservation measure for the Apollo, Parnassius apollo. Normally this species breeds one generation per year, over-wintering in the egg stage. By artificially rearing two generations per year, material for recolonization of depleted areas can be rapidly accumulated.
The best example of successful butterfly ranching is without question the development of the birdwing industry in Papua New Guinea, even though this has declined in recent decades. Here,the Insect Farming and Trading Agency (I.F.T.A.) of the Department of Primary Industry sells high quality specimens of birdwings ranched locally, returning three quarters of all profits to the ranchers. The I.F.T.A. demonstrates ways to enrich the habitat of the birdwings by planting foodplants and nectar plants around the gardens of the ranchers, and provides basic equipment for rearing the pupae in cages, killing the adults and storing them safely for later setting and sale. Imperfect and unwanted specimens are returned to the wild in order to keep up the stock of individuals visiting the gardens. The main species ranched are Troides oblongomaculatus and Ornithoptera priamus, but recent research into foodplant requirements and conservation status has suggested that O. goliath, O. victoriae and 0. chimaera could also be ranched and traded. The butterfly ranching project in Papua New Guinea has demonstrated that trade and conservation can be of mutual benefit. Careful biological studies of other large and spectacular swallowtails, with a view to replacing the trade in wild-caught specimens with ranched specimens, is greatly to be encouraged. Although a thorough analysis of the potential for butterfly ranches around the world has never been made, there are certainly innumerable opportunities throughout tropical Africa, South America and Asia.
Transcribed, adapted and abbreviated, with permission, from Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book by N.M. Collins & M.G. Morris. The full volume, with references, is available here https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/6023